Millennials have probably received more coverage in the US than any generation before them. Whether it’s about how to sell stuff to them, how to hire them, how to engage them at work, or how they bank, it’s important for marketers not to treat them as a single group.
Not least because millennials now number nearly 80 million, and there are more than a few distinct differences between those born in 1978 and those in 1995.
Some are 20-something Planners, not 20-Something Coasters
Younger millennials, those aged 22 to 31, are often far more grown-up than marketers given them credit for (they’re not always simply #adulting), and significantly less #YOLO than the culture admits. This is because economic stress is making them shun more traditional youthful indiscretion.
Anxieties about employment, debt, and financial instability push them to think strategically and act prudently when it comes to how they spend their time and money: More than the rest of the US population, younger millennials intentionally curtail alcohol consumption, unhealthy foods, vacation time, sexual partners and spending, according to CEB data.
Brands that recognize and support younger millennials’ instinct for responsibility — rather than perpetuating the myth of an irresponsible, failing-to-launch generation — will resonate as realistic and aspirational rather than condescending.
Others are 30-something Parents, not 30-Something Kidults
Considering that an older millennial today is more likely to be a parent than not, and the vast majority of parents with children under 18 are millennials, it’s safe to say that parenthood is now a fresh and profound experience for this critical cohort of consumers.
Millennial parents are especially strapped for time and money. A household with children and two full-time working parents is much closer to the norm today than it was 30 or even 15 years ago (pdf). The cost of childcare has nearly doubled in the past 25 years, but despite the prevalence of dual-income-earner parents, the US Department of Health and Human Services rated the cost of childcare as “unaffordable” in 49 of 50 states.
The result is a cohort of young parents desperate to “make it work” by hunkering down, cutting corners and asking for help.
Marketers at firms that have spent years honing child-related products and marketing messages know how to access the vulnerable parental soul, and they may not need to shred their existing playbooks to reach millennial parents. But they must do more to account for social and economic shifts that make the millennial experience of parenthood different. Such shifts have led millennial parents to prioritize experience-oriented values like “purpose,” “creativity,” and “discovery” far more strongly than other parental cohorts.